Discussion on “the Real Enigma heroes”

The real Enigma Heroes by Phil Shanahan

This is a book full of local interest telling the story of the capture of key U boat codes and the death of Tamworth man Colin Grazier. It is rather wrong to say that the heroism of Grazier and his colleague Fasson were ignored. As a matter of policy the breaking of the Enigma codes and the subsequent Ultra intelligence was deliberately kept secret for many years.

It was in the mid seventies before the secret was revealed in a book by Winterbotham and a TV series “Most Secret War”. It is a tribute to the secrecy both during and after the war that the revelation came as a shock. It was Churchill who said of the whole Ultra operation “the geese who laid the golden eggs and never cackled”.

Colin Grazier with Fasson lost their lives rescuing the vital code books. The part they played in whole Ultra operation which involved thousands of people wasn’t immediately appreciated. The book tells the story of the campaign by the Tamworth Herald both to commemorate a local hero and to make the wider public aware of their contribution.

At that stage in the war the Enigma decodes were becoming established when the German naval code was upgraded and intelligence contact was lost. This was at a critical stage when U boat sinkings of Allied ships in the North Atlantic rose to an unprecedented and dangerous level. Retrieval of codes was very important and that was the operation in which Grazier and Fasson lost their lives. They were inside a sinking U boat passing out documents when it sank carrying them down with it.

Although it was read with great interest several commented that it was effectively two books: one a historical account of HMS Petards war, and the particular action in which Grazier lost his life: and the second the Herald’s campaign for local and wider recognition. The book is a rather uneasy mixture of the two with the campaign in minute detail with a dip into history interspersed. The book follows the chronology of the Herald campaign with Shanahan on its staff. Rather curiously but unsurprisingly after the brief and somewhat confusing action there were varying accounts about what happened.

Some say only codes were retrieved while another says that in addition a 4 rotor Enigma ( a developed version ) was obtained.

The code breaking centre at Bletchley Park eventually used a sort of computer thought to be the first ever made. Such was the secrecy that these computers were never publicised and were probably destroyed. Arguably this had the long term effect of handing the lead in computing development to America who exploited their wartime advances to great commercial effect.

The campaign to recognise Grazier is still fresh in the minds of many members and its repetition in such detail was rather irritating. On a human level such details as the two day duration of Graziers marriage before embarking on Petard made a lot of impact. It is good to know that the local hero is now well commemorated here.

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